Posted on

A Tale of Two Budgets

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


There was a time when the now traditional budgeting process did not exist. It emerged in the early twentieth century as a mechanism to exert central control on increasing large corporations with more and more regions and divisions. It put the power at the centre and constrained senior management in the regions and divisions to comply.

We looked some time ago at the triptych of mission, vision and values. Once these are agreed, senior managers can develop a strategy for the business and, from that, plans for the coming year. When costs and revenues are allocated to those plans, the costs can be divided among the regions, divisions and functional groups, to create a budget.

Budgeting is therefore a process that reinforces a static hierarchy, centralised control, and a fixed plan for the coming year. It happens in the overwhelming majority* of businesses; including Barnstaple Corp, a fictional US headquartered global manufacturer.

Barnstaple Corp

This results in Barnstaple having a high level of control over how and where it spends its investment money – able to channel cash to the regions and operating divisions where HQ analysis can see the great growth potential. Down on the ground, however, individual managers who are responsible for distinct product lines feel frustrated. They have very little true decision-making capacity and are forced to manage their business with no more resources than they are given.

Some can see huge local opportunities, which they are unable to exploit due to lack of central funding. It is not that budgets cannot be adjusted mid-year; but the effort, bureaucracy and politicking required to negotiate this with HQ leaves many of them with a fatalistic attitude. They know that if they were given more autonomy, they could make more money for their bosses, but they feel as if nobody really cares about the profits of their one product line.

Idlas

Idlas works very differently. It is a fictional European headquartered retailer, that gives everyone of its employees in 24 countries a simple message: continually find and implement ways to serve our customers better. Anyone in the business can make a decision and primary levels of leadership are devolved to clusters of stores of no more than 50 to 60 branches. Headquarters serves as a resource pool for company-wide services, but individual senior managers at cluster level can opt out of those services if they can find alternatives that allow them to provide better service to their customers.

All decision-making at Idlas is governed by a few over-arching corporate values and promotions tend to be internal, locking those values into the company’s DNA. To support decision-making, HQ provides a constant stream of high quality information, that is openly available to any manager.

Similar and Different

Both Barnstaple and Idlas are highly admired companies making large profits for their shareholders. Both have very real equivalents in the world – each on both sides of the Atlantic, although the Idlas equivalents are far rarer than the Barnstaples. Both are extreme and idealised counterparts of their real-world equivalents – yet neither is very far from the reality of typical businesses of their type.

But both have a very different response to the VUCA** environment in which most large corporates are trading – and in which most small businesses trade too.

Barnstaple husbands its resources carefully, using centralised expert analysts to predict where they will be needed and a budgeting process that allocates them accordingly. Scrutiny of requests for budget variances happens centrally.

Idlas lets local managers read the local conditions and optimise as they go, drawing down on central resources, to invest what they judge necessary to maximise customer service and therefore profit.

Scrutiny takes place far more locally than at Barnstaple, among peers in the region.


* I am tempted to say 97.6 per cent of businesses, knowing that 98.3 percent of statistics are made up and that only 1.4 per cent of readers ever try to check a statistic and that only 21.2 per cent of them are ever persistent enough to get an answer. But I shan’t, for obvious reasons.

** VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous

Further Reading

Barnstaple represents the archetype of command and control budgeting, whereas Idlas is emblematic of a devolved leadership model.

You can learn more about this from the Beyond Budgeting Institute.

You may also like The Managing Budgets Pocketbook.

Share this:
Posted on

Risk Management

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


We are now at the end of our series of blogs, looking at some of the essential models that a project manager will need. We have covered:


Project Management blogger Glen Alleman (at Herding Cats – a trenchant blog by a serious heavy-weight project manager) describes risk management as the way grown ups do project management. I thoroughly agree (and have written a book on it, ‘Risk Happens!’ to boot).

Why does he say this? I can’t speak for Glen (I wouldn’t dare) but my own feeling is that professional project managers have nailed the planning process as a fully developed skill set. So all the uncertainty in your project – and therefore the difference between success and failure – lies in the risk. This must take up a large part of your attention.

So let’s see how to do it…

The Risk Management Process

Risk Management is a simple process:

  1. Identify anything and everything that you think can go wrong
  2. Analyse each potential risk and prioritise them by assessing the impact of their consequences, and the likelihood of them happening. High likelihood, high impact risks are your top priority, and low impact, highly unlikely risks can be deliberately set to one side – you cannot ignore them, but you can choose to do nothing.
  3. For everything else, plan what you will do. Will you:
    • mitigate the risk by reducing its impact?
    • reduce the risk by making it less likely?
    • create a contingency plan in case it materialises?
    • find someone else to take the risk for you?
  4. Once you have your plans, put them into effect
  5. Review the outcomes of your interventions and, if necessary, plan and take further steps.

Risk Analysis

We analyse risks against their potential impact, their likelihood, and sometimes other factors like how soon they might affect us. The commonest tool is a chart of impact versus likelihood, onto which we plot our risks. The best approach is to keep it simple. Here is an example…

Risk Analysis

 

Further Reading

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. Project Management Pocketbook
Share this:
Posted on

The DUCK Creativity Model

Any thoughts that readers may have that all management models originate in the US or the UK – or the wider Anglophone world – can be put to one side. I have discovered a marvellously powerful method for creative innovation, emerging from France.

The French model can be translated into the English acronym DUCK and it gives us the four stages of radical innovation.

D – Drop
– abandon wholly your old ways of doing things

U – Upend
– turn the old ways entirely on their head

C – Create
– build a new process, system, toolkit or idea from the inverted ideas of the past

K – Kindle
– ignite the sparks of your creative thinking with bold execution of your new ideas

DUCK Methodology

What I love about the DUCK method is its gutsy Gallic determination to stimulate creation. From now on, whenever I am in need of new ideas, I will doggedly DUCK the issue.


By the way, on a curious note, the French word for duck is canard, which the English dictionary defines as ‘a false report, rumour or hoax’.

How can that be?

Share this:
Posted on

The Gantt Chart

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


We are working through a series of blogs, looking at some of the essential models that a project manager will need. We will cover:

Once the dates are passed, these links will work.


The Gantt Chart is like a non-identical twin of the Network Chart which we saw last week. It contains all of the same information, but displays it in a different way.

The Gantt Chart is named after Henry Gantt, who did not invent it. As far as I can find (Wikipedia seems clear on this), it was invented some twenty years before Gantt re-invented it by Polish engineer and economist, Karol Adamiecki. Writing in Polish, of course, and calling it a harmonogram , would never endear it to Anglophone engineers and managers, who, if they had heard of it, would probably have thought Harmonogram too effete and musical-sounding a term. Gantt Chart has an air of brutality to its sound and Gantt was a thoroughgoing American.

Building a Gantt Chart

Anyway, let’s convert last week’s network chart into a Gantt Chart.

First, we draw two axes:

  • on one, put a time scale
  • on the other, list all of the tasks

Now, starting with the first task, represent each one by a bar. Make the length of the bar represent the duration of the task, and place it to represent its scheduling, as driven by the sequencing and dependencies of your network chart: voila!

First, here is our Network Chart

Critical Path on a Network Diagram

Now, let’s translate this into Gantt Chart format…

Gantt Chart

And it really is as simple as that… until your project gets large and complex.

Further Reading 

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. Project Management Pocketbook

 

Share this:
Posted on

The Critical Path

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


We are working through a series of blogs, looking at some of the essential models that a project manager will need. We will cover:

Once the dates are passed, these links will work.


One of the pieces of project jargon that causes most confusion is ‘Critical Path’ and ‘Critical Path Analysis’, the process of calculating the critical path. The concept is actually quite simple, providing you start at the beginning.

Tasks, Duration and Sequence

The first step in preparing a project plan is to identify all of the tasks you will need to complete. When you have done this, for each task, you must estimate how long it will take. The third key step is to figure out how the tasks connect up, logically, into a sequence. For most of them, one task will be followed by another, which will be followed by another. In project management jargon, this is a series of ’finish-to-start dependencies’. This sequence creates what is known as a ‘work stream’. The complications arise when some tasks can run in parallel to one-another, when some tasks can trigger the start of more than one task, and when some tasks can only start when more than one task has finished. There are more complications than this, but that’s enough and covers most small to medium sized projects! The best way to make sense of all of this is to draw yourself a flow chart; what is known as a ‘network diagram’. Network Diagram

Calculate the Critical Path

Once you have the logic of your network drawn out, you can add your estimates of the durations of each task. These will allow you to calculate how long each path through the network will take. The longest path is called the ‘Critical Path’. It is critical because any delay (or ‘slippage’) to a task on that path will cause a delay in the completion of your project. Critical Path on a Network Diagram There you have it – simple in concept. Of course, like much that is simple, in the real world it is seldom easy. Calculating (and optimising) the critical path for a large, complex project with very many interdependent tasks is a big computation. When the methodology was invented in the 1950s, it was a big job to undertake. Nowadays, all but the very the biggest projects can be planned, optimised and monitored with the help of software running on a standard personal computer. I will never forget having the chance to look through the network diagram of the project to build and launch the first NASA Space Shuttle. Hundreds of pages of large paper and small print. ‘But’ said the project manager who showed me it, ‘when they planned the Mercury and Gemini missions in the 1950s, every time an engineer or project manager wanted to change the logical sequence, the network (or a chunk of it) had to be re-drawn by hand.’ How would that affect our attitude to getting it right the first time?
Further Reading  From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. Project Management Pocketbook
Share this:
Posted on

Stakeholder Management

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


We are working through a series of blogs, looking at some of the essential models that a project manager will need. We will cover:

Once the dates are passed, these links will work.

The Stakeholder Management Process

Stakeholder management starts during scoping, to understand their varying needs and wants, and negotiate with them  to balance stakeholders’ long shopping lists with your constrained resources. In the planning stage, you need to figure out how to win over – or at least pacify – the doubters and keep your supporters happy, so that throughout this stage and the implementation stage, you can engage with your stakeholders actively. In the evaluation stage you will need their perceptions if you want to create a full assessment of your project.

The broad process for managing stakeholders has four steps.

Stakeholder Management Process

Stakeholder Plan

Build your plan for each stakeholder, based on your assessment of:

  • what they want from you
  • what you want from them
  • what level of influence and power they have
  • how supportive or sceptical they are
  • … and any other factors

Your plan should contain:

  • The messages you want to communicate
  • The means by which you plan to communicate them
  • What attitude to take (for example: consultative, informing, instructing, requesting…)
  • The best time to deliver each message
  • Who will be responsible for preparing and delivering each message
  • How you will test whether the message has gone down as you intended
  • How you will gather feedback from the stakeholder

Stakeholders are vital to your project. It is they, after all, who will pass the final verdict on whether it has a success…

or a failure.

Further Reading 

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. Project Management Pocketbook
  2. The Influencing Pocketbook
  3. Handling Resistance Pocketbook
Share this:
Posted on

The Triple Constraint

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


We are working through a series of blogs, looking at some of the essential models that a project manager will need. We will cover:

Once the dates are passed, these links will work.

Defining a Project

We define a project in terms of its purpose, goal, objectives and scope.

  • Purpose: why we need it
  • Goal: what it needs to achieve
  • Objectives: the constraints we must meet
  • Scope: The breadth and depth of the work to be done

Objectives come in Three Flavours

Objectives set constraints we must meet: time, cost and quality parameters that define our priorities. Once all of these are fixed, we can think of them as occupying three corners of a rigid triangle: the time-cost-quality triangle.

The Triple Constraint - The Time-Cost-Quality Triangle - The Iron Triangle - The Triangle of Balance

This is also known by other names, the most useful of which is the Triple Constraint. Because once you have a plan, any attempt to change one corner…

  • to reduce the cost
  • to speed up delivery
  • to improve performance

… will only be possible if you are prepared to compromise one or both of the other two corners.

The important thing about the Triple Constraint is that it never tells you what to do – your primary and secondary time, cost or quality objectives must be your guides. But it will always show you clearly what your choices are.

An example…

You want your IT system to produce management data more quickly than it is specified to? Well that is okay. It can, as long as you are prepared to either:

  • Compromise on budget, spending more on the system and on the people and systems that feed it with data  –  or
  • Compromise on performance and accept either a reduced data set focused on the most important figures, or reduced data quality, giving first estimates only, based on the most material information, but awaiting the precision of the full information.

This is just an illustration, but it shows clearly how the Triple Constraint offers us options.

Further Reading 

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. Project Management Pocketbook
Share this:
Posted on

Project Lifecycle

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Implementing business strategy usually means starting one or more projects. Whilst nothing would please me more (as a former professional project manager) than to devote a series of blogs to a thorough description of project management, that is not the role of these blogs and also, The Project Management Pocketbook already covers that ground.

So I shall limit myself, in the next few blogs, to some of the essential models that a project manager will need. We will cover:

Once the dates are passed, these links will work.

Four Stage Project

There are as many ways of representing the lifecycle of a project as project managers, but they all contain many of the same features, just different language for the stages, different choices of how detailed to be, and different graphical metaphors for how to draw it.

Here, we will use the version in the Project Management Pocketbook.

Project Lifecycle

Scoping

Define the purpose, aim, objectives and scope of the project to evaluate whether it makes good business sense and is therefore worth proceeding to the planning stage. Good business sense here means consistency with your organisation’s mission, vision and values, and a reasonable expectation that the benefits will exceed the costs.

Planning

Put together a detailed specification for what your project will produce and then use this as the basis to plan what you need to do, in what order, at what time, with what resources and allocating work to which people. Calculate the cost of your plan to create a budget and compare that with the benefits you will get if your project delivers to its specification and you can create a business case. You business case will guide your decision whether to invest in implementing your project.

Implementing

Now deliver your project, constantly monitoring for risks, changes, delays, overspends and the quality of your delivered products. Intervene where necessary to maintain control. At the end of the implementing stage, you can hand over the last of the things you have created to your customer, boss or client. Will they accept them? Only if they are fit for purpose.

Evaluating

How did it go? What did you learn? How did team members perform? Was it all worthwhile? Take this new knowledge into your next project and do that one even better.

Further Reading 

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. Project Management Pocketbook
Share this:
Posted on

Mission, Vision and Values

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Among the most frequent sources of confusion for managers – at all levels – are the distinctions between mission, vision and values.

As I started planning this article, I created a table for myself, to put my ideas down about how they compare. In the end, I decided that, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a table must be worth at least 500.

You can click on this image to get a full screen version of this table.

Mission, Vision, and Values

There is not much more to say

Your mission is a long-term definition of why you are in business, your vision sets out what you want to achieve within your strategic planning timescale, and your values determine the culture, behaviours and choices you want your business and its people to follow.

Values should drive your culture through every process: recruitment, appraisal, promotion, succession, procurement, development, sales, marketing, …

Mission should set up the basis for your values. Mission and values should help you find which of many possible visions is right for your business.

Mission, vision and values: one of those things that is fiendishly simple in concept, yet staggeringly hard to do well.

Further Reading 

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. The Strategy Pocketbook
Share this:
Posted on

Business Strategy Tools

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Over the years, Pocketblog has covered some important business strategy thinkers, so we will start by reviewing what we have.

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy

This is the name of Richard Rumelt’s book and it neatly frames any discussion of business strategy by defining what your outcome needs to look like. Take a look at ‘What makes good business strategy?

The Balanced Scorecard

In one of the all-time classic Harvard Business Review articles, Robert Kaplan and David Norton set out to ensure that our business strategies are balanced across a range of different areas of the business. The tool they introduced is nearly ubiquitous in the upper reaches of the management world, and no manager can get away without at least a passing familiarity with the Balanced Scorecard. Take a look at ’Balance is Everything’.

The McKinsey 7S Model

One of my own favourite tools is also about balance, but this time about ensuring all the elements of your business strategy and planning are all aligned. It was developed by consultants at top US firm, McKinsey: Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. The seven S model reminds us that shared values, style, skills, staff, structure, systems, and strategy must all be consistent with one another. Take a look at ‘On Competition: Internal Forces and the 7-S Model’.

The Awesome Michael Porter

Over the years, three blogs have featured the thinking of business strategy specialist, Michael Porter.

‘On Competition: Five Forces’ briefly introduced two of his principal ideas: the five forces model and his three generic business strategies that flow from them.

‘On Competition, again: Porter’s Five Forces’ took a deeper look at the five forces model.

‘On Competition – The Far End of the Value Chain’ focused on the three generic business strategies and his concept of the value chain. Here, I speculated that some businesses have found a fourth, very successful business strategy.

By the way, a recent entry in the Pocket Correspondence course returned to the idea of the value chain. Take a look at ‘The Value Chain’.

The Boston Consulting Group Matrix

Having finished reviewing the archives, let’s take a look at one business strategy tool. This is designed to help us answer a very simple question:

‘We have a number of products (or services) but limited resources to invest in their development and marketing. Which products (or services) should we focus our investment on?’

The folk at Boston Consulting Group who developed the tool suggested that two considerations are paramount in making our judgements:

  1. What is our market share?
    Do we have a dominant market position with this product/service, or a modest share. This dictates the base from which investment can grow or maintain our position.
  2. What is the growth potential of the market?
    Is this product in a growing, static or declining market? Clearly static and declining markets offer far less opportunity to recoup investments.

The result was a simple matrix that plots these two conditions against one-another and identifies four generic strategies. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Business Strategy Matrix

The Matrix gives us four strategies, three compelling labels for our products/services and one label that is, frankly, honest but lame.

Stars

Place your biggest investment bets on the products which dominate markets with high growth potential. If you are Samsung, you will be investing highly in mobile telephone products because the market continues to expand and you already have a dominant position.

Dogs

Do not invest – arguably, disinvest – in products which have a small share of a static or declining market. There is not much to win and you are not placed to take much of it.

Cash Cows

What do you do if you are a dominant player in a static or declining market? BCG suggested it is like having invested in a cow: you should look after it and milk it while it is healthy. This is how I read the men’s razor market. If you are one of the big players in your region (Gillette, Wilkinson Sword, Bic, for example, here in the UK), then you have a lot of investment in products and marketing, and a strong, valuable revenue stream. Over investment can gain little, as the market will never expand until men grow two heads or we need to shave more of ourselves. But if you don’t invest, you will lose the benefit of your position to your rivals. So, what do we see? Incremental investment in new – but hardly innovative – products. When I started shaving, two blades was new. Now we are up to five. By the time I no longer need to shave (about thirty years or so, I guess) I predict an eight bladed razor will be common.

Question Marks

What to call these pesky products… Does the label attach to the products or the challenge BCG found in labelling them with a cute title? Set aside that curious linguistic conundrum and we face the most difficult challenge of all. Your market is growing, so there is a big prize for the skilled/lucky investor. But your market position is weak, so you have a low chance of success against bigger rival products. Like many good tools, the BCG matrix does not give you all the answers. But it does bring your choices into stark relief.

Further Reading 

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. The Strategy Pocketbook
  2. Business Planning Pocketbook
Share this: